I recently re-read a classic piece by J.L. Mackie (April 1955), entitled “Evil and Omnipotence,” a stupendous philosophical essay about why theologians like Richard Swinburne are forced by their belief in an omnipotent, omnibenevelont and omnipowerful god into incredible and rather painful feats of mental gymnastics. One of Mackie’s minor points in the essay is that the so-called “free will defense” for the existence of evil in the world is problematic because the concept of free will itself is incoherent. Although, sometimes accusations of incoherence are thrown around a bit too easily in philosophy, I think this one has the potential to stick.
Attentive readers of this blog may have noticed that those who post comments to my entries often show two interesting and complementary attitudes: a fundamental distrust of (if not downright contempt for) philosophy, coupled with an overly enthusiastic endorsement of science. Take, for instance, my recurring argument that some (but not all!) of the “new atheists” engage in scientistic attitudes by overplaying the epistemological power of science while downplaying (or even simply negating) the notion that science fundamentally depends on non-empirical (i.e., philosophical) assumptions to even get started.
There has been much discussion lately on this blog and elsewhere about the relationships among skepticism, atheism, and politics.
I like Penn&Teller, the magicians and debunkers of pseudoscience and general inanity. I regularly use clips from their show in my critical reasoning class, despite cringing every time Penn indulges in his “fuck this” and “motherfucker that” exercise in free speech (it distracts the students from the real point, not to mention the always lurking possibility of an administrator asking me about the appropriateness of foul language in a philosophy class).